Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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"My commitment to a law about the Righteous in Italy's Parliament"

Interview with Emanuele Fiano

Emanuele Fiano

Emanuele Fiano

On 8 September 2016, the draft bill for the establishment in Italy of a Day in memory of the Righteous of the Humanity, which was presented on 30 January 2014 by Milena Santerini, to whom Gariwo is very grateful for her battle of the past two years to harness the widest possible consensus among the political forces,has been scheduled for discussion.

Through such measure, Italy will officially join the Day of the Righteous that was set up by the European Parliament on 10 May 2012. The scheduling is the first step of a pathway that will culminate with the introduction to the Parliament of the definitive bill – as licensed by the Committee.

We owe particular thanks to Emanuele Fiano, the speaker of this bill for throwing the weigh of his prestige behind the efforts to convince the majority that runs the country.

“The memory of the Righteous calls everyone of us to his or her own commitment to democracy, fighting against racism and intolerance, countering any kind of violence and arrogance of man against the other men. Devoting one day to all the Righteous of Humanity means to keep their example alive and pass on to the younger generations the loftiest values of the Italian and European culture”.

The bill to establish in Italy a Day in memory of the Righteous, which was presented on 30 January 2014, is now being discussed in the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Gariwo interviewed Emanuele Fiano, deputy and speaker of the bill in the first Committee.

Which steps is the Constitutional Affairs Committee taking about the bill for the establishment of a Day in Memory of the Righteous? What should we expect in the near future?

As a speaker, during the first session I told my colleagues of the First Committee about the content of the bill. The draft text is then scheduled to free discussion between the members of the Committee, in which every deputy will be able to intervene. In this case I do not think it will be a lengthy process.
After the discussion it will be possible to put forward amendments, which then shall have to be voted, and then the speakers of the Chamber of deputies shall schedule the bill, as licensed by the Commission, to discussion in the Chamber.

The law proposal was signed by members of all political parties. Do you think there can be a political unity about this law?

Yes, I do. The problems are the very strict deadlines, as the Parliament has many issues on the agenda. We must arrive before the beginning of the discussion on the stability law. Let us say thus by within October we should conclude it. Afterwards we will start the discussion of the budgetary law, which makes it impossible to deal with anything else.

What does it mean to you and the Democratic Party to support this law?

I am the main supporter of this bill. I began standing on the side of Gabriele Nissim's many years ago, when I was city councilor in Milan, and I supported the creation of the Garden of the Righteous on Monte Stella Hill. In the Parliament's Committee I tried to explain the cultural mechanism that turns the memory of violence and death in a positive response setting out positive figures against a background of crimes against the humanity, and I believe many people will agree on this proposal. Maybe there will be some criticism as well – not from the PD but from those who believe in Italy there are too many days dedicated to many different causes. This is a correct criticism, but on the merit of the importance of a Day of the Righteous everyone will agree…

If, on the one hand, it is true that in Italy there are very many Days dedicated to memory and remembrance, on the other hand it is also important to remember that our country is one with the highest degree of commitment to the activities of celebration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. After the establishment of the European Day of the Righteous, what is the meaning for Italy to be the first country to create this recurrence also at the national level?

I believe it is a positive effort to transform the very culture of memory... Not forgetting about the violence endured by all those who were targeted by the Nazis and fascists is a duty, but transforming this memory into positive deeds for the future generations can be an element of enrichment, able to preserve and reinforce memory. Furthermore, a narrative made of positive examples is probably better accepted. Remembrance days run the risk of wearing thin of their original meetings becoming empty, sometimes even just retorical, commemorations - although I think it is possible to make memory in a very active way, too. but I believe connecting them to the celebration and memory of positive figures that show the subjective virtue of those who in history have taken a different path from the mainstream of violence and crimes against the humanity they were confronted with produces a useful mechanism in memory, one that leads to remember history in a different way.

In the light of today's challenges, in the face of fundamentalism, xenophobia, European different kinds of resurgent nationalism, can the fact of remembering that a single individual can make the difference between good and evil, help not only Italy, but also Europe, work out the current great crisis also in terms of identity and values?

The example of the Righteous goes into the opposite direction of unbridled individualism and fundamentalist nationalism, which unfortunately we witness with growing concern today. I cannot say if a Day can invert the route of history, but of course the work that Gabriele Nissim  has started, which he ideally borrowed from the tradition of the Righteous of Yad Vashem, is not only a good polar star of the way we rethink history, but can also provide a fertile soil to invert a tragic turn that in some cases history is taking.

In the light of this, in your opinion who are the "Righteous of our times"?

There are Righteous people in all the events we are confronted with. Many were mentioned by Gabriele, they are examples of bravery and original choice. If I had to think of an unresolved conflict which still gives us so much to think, I think of two figures who in their field have gone against the impossible, the idea of a perennial and unavoidable war. I therefore think of Egyptian Prime Minister Anwar Sadat, killed in Cairo in 1981, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, murdered in Tel Aviv in 1995, both of whom were assassinated because of their ideals of peace. Two figures who have chosen to try and lead their peoples opposite to the mainstream which seemed to represent the only direction history was headed to in those times, two greatly lofty figures…

A key point of the law will be education. What is the most important cultural battle now, to be carried out both at schools and within the public opinion?

I think we should teach the younger generations that "history is us". That we shall not therefore "be subject to history". In facts, each of us in his or her individuality has one piece of it in his or their hands, and this is why history can be changed and turned toward the values we believe in. Sometimes this effort and courage can even cost us our lives, but this means contributing to the history of the universe instead of being merely subject to it.

Martina Landi, Gariwo editorial staff; translation by Carolina Figini

14 September 2016

Our interviews

Multimedia

Theatrical show based on Gabriele Nissim's books

Il Memorioso. Short guide to the memory of Good